Waiting in the Mine
Katherine Britton, Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor
For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. - 2 Corinthians 5:4
What happens when rescue means you're found, but not yet free?
For the 33 miners trapped in a Chilean mine, this is reality - an unexpected, inadvertent and completely experimental reality. They've been trapped in the collapsed mine since August 5, and no one even knew if they were alive until two weeks later. Today, they constitute a psychological experiment so extreme that it could only happen as a freak accident. The men now subsist with a regimented schedule, work groups, hot meals and letters dropped through an inches-wide tunnel from more than 2,000 feet above. Rescuers think it will be months before they can finish a tunnel and bring the miners back to the surface.
"It is incredible. What's more staggering is that they have at least two more months to wait. They have broken records already. Everyday they create a new record. No one has ever survived underground this long," ABC News' Jeffrey Kofman said. Even that's an understatement.
These miners live in a strange world - they know they will be rescued, but daily life until that moment has forced them to play a psychological waiting game. They're alive, but their circumstances don't allow them a very full life. They can talk to their families by phone, but the hugs-and-tears reunions are weeks away. They must work, staying on guard against rock slides and preparing for the rescue shaft to break through their ceiling. But these tasks serve as reminders of where they are.
Believers should see a profound metaphor in the circumstances of these miners: they are living "now and not yet" paradox of salvation. These men are certainly found, safe, and certain to come home. Just not yet.
In the parable of the mustard seed (Mark 4:30-32), Christ describes Christian growth in increments. The work of grace reaches the heart and begins to grow and produce change immediately. That seed of faith continues to grow throughout a Christian's life, manifesting God's continuing work. But, as Matthew Henry's commentary points out, no change will be complete until it is "perfected in heaven." Salvation's work isn't complete until we meet Jesus face to face.
Doctrinally, this progression includes several stages. First, salvation by justification - when we, like the Chilean miners, find that someone has reached the pit we're trapped in and saved us from death. Second, sanctification - call it the long interlude between the hallelujah of being found and moment of seeing the sun again. During this time, everything we do prepares us for that reunion. Finally comes glorification - this is the beautiful moment when, after being trapped in a dark world, we arrive in the arms of the One who loves us beyond compare.
I can only imagine how much these 33 men yearn for the sun, their families, and a full life again. Do we have that same desire for our reunion with Christ?
Intersecting Faith & Life: If you're a Christian, you too are living in the twilight world of the miners. But that doesn't mean we sit around waiting for the rescue shaft to break through. We get to work, taking care of our temporary home and those around us. That way, when the final rescue comes, we emerge not as atrophied shells, but as people who have learned to appreciate the sun even more.